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Thread: Newbie to Astrophotography - looking for advice

  1. #1
    Tonester's Avatar
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    Default Newbie to Astrophotography - looking for advice



    Hi all,
    Without going into a rant as to why Im getting into this hobby (which I did in my Introduction post), I'll just give the quick and dirty. Im new to astronomy and I am looking into buying a scope and Im looking for some assistance to help prevent myself from either buying too much and going overboard or buying too little and wishing I just bit the bullet and got good gear.

    My intention is to mainly do EAA and astrophotography and Im thinking I want to focus on imaging deep sky objects as my main focus with a secondary focus of planetary imaging. With that said, I think it would be foolish to go out and buy all top of the line gear at first, so my thought was to buy a solid scope, and start out with the more inexpensive imaging equipment. I figured it make more sense to have a scope that could last the test of time and upgrade the imaging equipment as my experience grows and I learn what I am doing.

    Below is the gear I am looking at. I have been leaning toward the SCT scopes because they are so large as to prevent me from bringing them on my camping trips. I an SCT is not the route I should be looking at, please point me in the right direction.

    Ive also been informed to get a GEM b/c they are better for AP compared to a alt/az mount. I understand why, but do you all think it would be worth the initial investment as Im learning? Im thinking yes, but Ive also heard that GEM's complicate the learning process for newbs. Im willing to take it on, but I also dont want to shoot myself in the foot.

    Thanks for all your help!

    Scope options:
    Celestron NexStar 8SE
    Celestron 8" NexStar Evolution
    Celestron NexStar Evolution 8" EdgeHD with StarSense - Im leaning toward this one though it may be overkill. I was just told this was made for astrophotography and would hold up as I upgrade camera equipment over the years

    Astrozap Flexible Dew Shield
    ZWO ASI224MC USB 3.0 Color Astronomy Camera(I was told this is a good starter camera)
    High Point 2" SCT Quartz Dielectric Diagonal
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    Default Re: Newbie to Astrophotography - looking for advice

    OK. In astrophotography you get what you pay for, mostly. SCT are not great deep sky scopes because they are slow at f10. You will need a focal reducer for it, and there are also hyperstar options, but that's even more money. Better IMO is a wide field APO refractor--there are numerous on the market.

    For the mount, a GEM is better, hands down. You can go with a fork mount, but you'll need an wedge to adjust to your latitutde.

    Camera depends on the scope, and what your goals are. Planetary cameras are different than deep sky cameras. CMOS and CCD are different. Color, monochrome. My recommendation actually is that if you have a DSLR--start with that.

    There is a lot more to talk about here. Guiding, focusing, software acquisition, processing, etc. But you're asking the right questions.

    Others here will have different opinions.
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    Default Re: Newbie to Astrophotography - looking for advice

    The advantage of an SCT is that (with a focal reducer), it can do DSP AP, and (with a barlow), it can do planetary. Generally, you want a fast (f/6 or less) scope for the faint fuzzies, and a long focal length (4000mm or longer) for planets. Most folks who do both end up with more than one scope.

    Much more important than the scope is the mount. You can do good AP with a mediocre scope on a good mount. You cannot do good AP with a good scope on a mediocre mount. So put your money into the mount.

    While an alt-az mount is good for visual observing and learning the night sky, it will quickly drive you crazy for AP. You cannot do exposures longer than 30 seconds with one. To take longer exposures (and, with practice, you will want to do 5 and 10 minute exposures), you have to use an EQ mount. It doesn't have to be a GEM (German equatorial mount), which is only one style of EQ mount. There are also wedged fork mounts, and CEMs (centre-balanced equatorial mount), which will work just as well. Most consumer EQ mounts are the GEM variety, just don't think you have to limit yourself to them. But you don't want an alt-az mount.

    The nice thing about the 8SE is that it is cheap and simple to use, and can be used for short-exposuire and planetary AP. When you are ready to move up to longer exposures, you can buy an EQ mount and put the 8SE OTA on it.

    In the long run, you might get more satisfaction from a fast 80mm or 100mm refractor on an AVX or similar mount.
    Last edited by KathyNS; 12-18-2018 at 10:17 PM.
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    Default Re: Newbie to Astrophotography - looking for advice

    I'll toss in a different point of view. I bought my 8" (listed in my signature) and the Ioptron alt/az for outreach and visual. At $700 (for the mount) it wasn't cheap. But it has been my workhorse for almost 10 years. I had always vaguely thought about AP for DSOs. And about 4 years ago saw a video a Japanese fellow posted on taking 1200 - 1 second exposures of the Andromeda Galaxy. I thought - "well I have a good mount and good scope why not try." And then I fell into the rabbit hole. Yes, you can do AP with an alt/az. In fact there is a new mount that will rotate with the sky - it only costs $7,000. YIKES! I bought a (used) GEM which despite it's 30# "payload" capability could not deal with my 17.5# scope/camera. So I heeded the folks on here and in my local club and bit the bullet for the Atlas mount which has done me well. So when they say to put your money where your mount is - they aren't kidding. For me aperture rules. Though I'd like to get a 10" for outreach, the 8" Newt has performed very well for both AP and visual/outreach. But, as the others have said - it's not really good for planets - there just isn't enough magnification to get a large image - even with afocal photography... though I'm going to try and get some pics with my cell phone (which is new to me) next time I do outreach. I don't do a lot of visual anymore - except for outreach. Any clear night without too much wind finds me outside shooting pictures and getting better at aligning and guiding. It's a real rabbit hole and going into it with the good advice from these folks can spare you a lot of agony and money. Best of luck... decisions, decisions.
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    Default Re: Newbie to Astrophotography - looking for advice

    What is your budget ???

    Whatever it is, spend as much as you can on a motorized equatorial mount (motorized in order to track).

    Joe
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    Default Re: Newbie to Astrophotography - looking for advice

    Quote Originally Posted by Tonester View Post
    My intention is to mainly do EAA and astrophotography and Im thinking I want to focus on imaging deep sky objects as my main focus with a secondary focus of planetary imaging. With that said, I think it would be foolish to go out and buy all top of the line gear at first, so my thought was to buy a solid scope, and start out with the more inexpensive imaging equipment. I figured it make more sense to have a scope that could last the test of time and upgrade the imaging equipment as my experience grows and I learn what I am doing.
    Right here you are stating totally different goals when it comes to AP. Each goal works much better with different equipment configurations and different processing techniques. Then AP requirements are totally different from visual observing.

    1) DSO AP requires long exposures and is easiest to do with a fast, short focal length refractor on an equatorial mount. By long exposures I mean 15-20 seconds, up to 20-30 minutes. These objects are extremely dim and requires a lot of integration time (image time). Ideally a cooled AP camera with a large sensor is used. The mount should be able to track and be guided. Most people end up guiding. Typically you are looking at hours of integration time (length of the sub exposures, times the number or sub exposures).

    2) Planetary AP (the moon, planets, comets) is done with short exposures and is best done with a long focal length scope and many times a Barlow to make it even longer. These objects are very bright and are imaged with short exposures or even video. A modified web cam or video camera is typically used and they have a small sensor. Because the exposures are short as long as you use a mount that can track, it is good enough. You are looking at hundreds to thousands of frames of data.

    3) EAA is generally done with video or short exposures, so it's closer to Planetary AP. These cameras typically have very small sensors. Processing is done in real time and is minimal. The quality of these images is on the low side. To get started I would look at something like a "Revolution Imager System R2" which is a EAA complete package.

    These are general guidelines. There are no hard and fast rules. You can use any camera, telescope and mount to image any object. It's just some combinations will make AP extremely difficult and give poor results.

    If you are truly interested in DSO AO, I would get this book:
    The Deep-sky Imaging Primer, Second Edition by Charles Bracken
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    Default Re: Newbie to Astrophotography - looking for advice

    Hi all and thank you for the helpful responses.

    It sounds like the consistent messaging is, get a good mount. Either a wedged alt/az mount or a dedicated eq mount. I was looking at 2 options along this line of thinking. See below:
    Option 1 - Celestron Advanced VX - If I was to going with the Celestron Edge HD, I can package these together, with a minimal discount. The mount by itself seems reasonably priced considering all the other options out there, but I've been told the 30lb weight capacity is the limiting factor. Thoughts on the AVX? Any other options?
    Option 2 - Celestron Nextstar evolution mount w/wedge - I originally thought of this because of all the extras you get with the evolution mount and the edge HD package, but after adding the wedge, Im sitting right under $2500. Whereas if I went with the the AVX, Ill be at $2150, no extra googies, but Ill have an eq mount.
    *I assume its would be better long term to get the eq mount and call it good.

    Now I dont have a set budget really because I wasn't really sure what I was going to get myself into, but Im really trying to keep my "get up and going" setup under $2,500. So going with the Celestron 8" Edge HD with a mount seems like the best approach. BUT, I also am hearing that the a wide field APO refractor is better for DSO's vs a CST. The APO refractors that have been recommended to me are significantly over my price range. I called a place and they told me to start out with a Meade 6000 115mm, which is $1,899 for the scope by itself with no eye piece or anything. OR a Sky Watcher Esprit which is just about the same. I dont really feel like it would be wise as a newbie to jump into the deep waters like that and make that kind of investment right off the bat.

    What I am really trying to to solidify here is, is going with the SCT over the refractor going to limit my ability to image DSO's? Will the quality be significantly impacted over going with a refracting APO? Like KathyNS said, a focal reducer could remedy that, but to what extent? My thoughts are also this, if I go with the Celestron Edge HD w/AVX mount I can get the best of both worlds. As i get more experienced and learn what Im doing I can pick up a Solid refracting APO. Just my thoughts and justification.

    Thanks again for all the input folks! This has been very helpful!

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    Default Re: Newbie to Astrophotography - looking for advice

    Quote Originally Posted by Tonester View Post

    Option 1Thoughts on the AVX? Any other options?

    Option 2 Celestron Nextstar evolution mount w/wedge


    *I assume its would be better long term to get the eq mount and call it good.

    What I am really trying to to solidify here is, is going with the SCT over the refractor going to limit my ability to image DSO's? Will the quality be significantly impacted over going with a refracting APO? Like KathyNS said, a focal reducer could remedy that, but to what extent? My thoughts are also this, if I go with the Celestron Edge HD w/AVX mount I can get the best of both worlds.


    I think you answered your own question.

    Definitely go with the equatorial mount. The AVX is a good place to start. But with your budget of ~ $2500, you can do better.

    For instance:

    https://optcorp.com/products/sky-wat...al-go-to-mount ~$1400

    https://optcorp.com/products/explore...r-fcd100-80061 ~$900


    Both of these products are brand new and within your budget. Both will have good re-sale value on the used market. The combination is perfect for anyone for beginning astrophotography.

    Get a used Canon or Nikon DSLR with an adapter and you're good to go. All within the $2500 budget.

    There are MANY other options. Just wanted to give you a taste of what is possible.

    As far as your budgetary concersn, you could do better if you buy on the used market. And BTW, buying an APO like the one I mention above is very easy to get on the used market. You'll save some $$ and get just as scope that is probably just as good as if it were new.

    Anyway, I really recommend beginning with a short-tube refractor -- because of the SHORT focal length. AP is very hard to learn. And you're making it harder if you begin by using a scope with a long focal length.

    Another item: You want the scope and all the gear on the scope (brackets, finder, camera, etc) to weight about 50% of the recommended weight tolerance for the mount if you're using the mount for AP.

    Hope this helps.

    Joe
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